Time for a global reset, to address the planetary emergency


* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Costa Rica is leading the way to rebalance our troubled relationship with nature

This year has revealed the extent to which nature underpins our human health, security and prosperity. The warming climate and rapid loss of biodiversity is sounding a planetary emergency alarm.

Our encroachment on nature has unleashed a global pandemic this year and a resulting economic crisis, while people around the world are facing ravaging forest fires, extreme weather events, droughts, record heat waves, rising sea levels, ocean degradation, air pollution and looming food insecurity.

The global community must act urgently and decisively. There is no single solution to the emergency – we will need to undertake systemic transformation of our economies and our societies.

The response must start with the health and well-being of people. The global health crisis is the symptom of a much deeper and longer-term disruption. Science tells us that deforestation, biodiversity loss, wildlife trafficking and meat consumption increase the risks of pandemics. Our consumption patterns are driving more and more resource-intensive industries, mining and agricultural production.

Instead of provoking nature, we should be nurturing it to help us improve health and well-being. Healthy ecosystems can provide clean water, clean air, protect against natural disasters, furnish life-saving medications and ensure long term food security.

Investing, restoring and protecting nature can also provide roughly a third of the climate action we need by 2030 in order to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. This is no substitute for decarbonization but an essential piece of the puzzle.

Our current economic system of short-term GDP growth does not adequately value the full range of benefits that nature offers. The World Economic Forum estimates that nature provides $125 trillion in assets to humanity, but more than half of global GDP ($44 trillion) is potentially threatened by biodiversity loss.

The opportunities are immense. A systemic transformation to a nature-friendly economy could create 395 million green, blue and orange jobs and deliver $10.1 trillion of economic value by 2030. And there are significant opportunities for job creation in the near-term by investing in a nature-positive recovery. Protecting nature is the key to enjoy priceless ecological services and boost our economies.

Costa Rica has been championing nature-positive actions, as a backer of forest conservation, renewable electricity and biodiversity protection. Starting from the 1980s, the country stopped and reversed forest loss, while the economy grew 2.5-fold in real terms. Costa Rica’s National Decarbonization Plan, which has a target of net-zero emissions and 60% forest cover by 2050, is the guiding program for the sustainable recovery efforts underway.

HIGH AMBITION

This September, we celebrate two major developments  showing that Costa Rica is joined by many partners in the global protection of people and nature.

Firstly, we are proud to welcome the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Commission in joining this week the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, the coalition Costa Rica co-chairs with France and which aims to protect at least 30% of marine and terrestrial areas by 2030.

Earlier this month we also expanded our membership, welcoming Greece, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Czech Republic. Our coalition extends to over 33 countries from all continents. 

Secondly, this Monday Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada joined leaders from 70 countries and the EU in endorsing the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which is committing to decisive action on nature to protect human and planetary health. Never before has such a large number of heads of states come together at the highest level and agreed on common language clearly stating the importance of responding to the interconnected crises for people and the planet and jointly committing to action.

A systemic transformation is needed for climate, people and nature. The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature testify to a truly global transformation and demonstrate political willingness.

We call on all governments, the United Nations and other stakeholders to join both of these collective efforts, as custodians and as one team, to protect and fortify our planet — the only home we have.

Andrea Meza is Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica.

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